Yesterday I was bombarded with a number of comments from a true Irishman, Ian.
My nickname is just that: a nickname. I’m American born and bred. When it comes to ancestry, though I do have Irish blood in me, I’m actually more Scottish and German than anything else. Interesting Pugnacious fact: I recently learned that my Scottish ancestors gave THE William Wallace a plot of land for roughin’ up the English. Supposedly, my Scottish ancestors liked to fight….explains a lot about my mom. Not that she likes to fight, but she’s one tough cookie (luv ya mom!). Note to commenters: DO NOT get between her and one of her cubs!
So, should I rename the blog? The Flying Scottsman? The Lederhosen-acious German? Naaaaahhhh….
Ok, end digression.
Ian asked a number of good questions, and they call for a response.
First, in response to a group of links, he asked:
I’ve read a lot of Christian blogs by Americans… why are most of you right-wing politically?
Maybe it’s due to my different culture but I would have thought that Christian morality would point in a somewhat more collectivist, left-wing direction.
There are some Christians, admittedly, who identify with conservativism simply because that’s the way they’ve been raised or what they’ve been exposed to. However, there are just as many liberals like that in both the U.S and Europe, so this means little.
Though it might seem like the overwhelming majority of Christians here identify with conservativism, the majority of black churches identify staunchly with the Democratic party. This has a complicated history that I can’t get into right now (up until LBJ and the Civil Right Act in the 60’s, the Democratic party wasn’t exactly friendly to African Americans. Moreover, a good bit of the Democratic platform currently doesn’t really aid the black community, IMO…different post for a different time), but there it is. Also, an unprecedented number of Evangelicals voted for Obama in this last election, unfortunately.
Let me focus not on history, but on values, however. Hopefully after I talk about how the platform of each party differs, it will make sense why many Christians align themselves with conservative values politically.
First, before we get to specific issues, look at the big picture politically: there is a distinction between a negative right and a positive right. A negative right amounts to protection, namely, protection from harm or being obstructed in my pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. A positive right is the right to be given something. Many currently see healthcare as a positive right, for example. Philosopher JP Moreland puts it this way:
A negative right is a right for me to be protected from harm if I try to get something for myself. A positive right would be my right to have something provided for me. If health care is a negative right, then the state has an obligation to keep people from preventing me from getting health care and discriminating against me. If health care’s a positive right, then the state has an obligation to provide it for me.
Notice that the sense of “negative” I’m using here deals with protection, not that a “negative” right is somehow bad or inferior, and that I’m using “positive” in the sense of being given something, not that it is good or better than negative rights.
The Bible portrays the role of government as protecting negative rights, not providing positive rights. Moreland continues:
As I read the New and Old Testaments, the government’s responsibility, is to protect negative rights, not to provide positive rights. So as a Christian, I believe in a minimal government. It’s not the government’s job to be providing the health care benefits for people. So I will be looking to see if Obama does things to minimize the role of government in culture, and to provide for as much human freedom as possible.
I think many Christians sense this, though they might not be able to articulate this political philosophy clearly. They (and I) sense that the Bible puts the responsibility for compassion on the individual citizen, not the government. For instance, I understand that citizens have to pay some taxes, and I’m comfortable with that. The money has to come from somewhere. However, there is a line. Do I want to give to the poor? Great, then I should…Do I really want this nation to adopt universal healthcare? Great, then I can give my resources to such a cause, but I cannot mandate that a state official reach into my neighbor’s pocket and take his money for my pet cause (and it’s an open question whether it will actually go to the cause in the first place, rather than gov’t waste). That is theft, not compassion. My neighbor knows what cause to best donate his money, not a state official. Romans 13 is a passage for government; the Sermon on the Mount is a passage for me. It is not the government’s job to foist it upon my neighbor and make sure he is behaving lovingly (according to the state’s view of love..which is a highly suspect definition) with his hard-earned paycheck.
To put it succinctly, I believe the Bible supports small government, as opposed to large. Mankind is horribly fallen, and though politics can bring great good and government can bring much peace, the Bible tells us not to put trust in kings of men. An increasingly large government that holds sway over more and more of our lives cuts against that conviction. The Republican party, though it has swayed from this recently, is mostly a small(er) government party, whereas the Democratic party consistently pushes for greater and greater expansion of government influence. Obama’s healthcare bill is a textbook example of this. Democrats might have good intentions in this, but you know what paves the road to hell.
Also philosophically, the Democratic party is more comfortable with moral relativism. There are thorough-going secularists and relativists in both parties, don’t get me wrong, but time and again, I’ve sensed an undercurrent of relativism and postmodernism in the left, and those two things just don’t jibe with the Bible. Of course, when you walk into a Democratic Senator’s moral hobbyhorse, s/he will suddenly wag his/her finger at people with the best of ‘em, but that doesn’t negate that from education policy to the so-called “separation of church and state” to same-sex marriage and beyond, the left philosophically aligns itself with relativism more at a fundamental level.
More to the point, the worldview of “secular progressives” align more with the left than the right, and their worldview is that the natural world is all there is. Religion might help you cope, but it’s not a source of truth. Values are cultural inventions, to be changed if we see fit. Anything goes as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone–and that “doesn’t hurt anyone” line in the sand is pretty negotiable too. Religion has no role in the public square, period. Keep it in your own thoughts and emotions, and even they are subject to be taken over by the government. You get the point. Sure, left politicians and pundits might give lip service to God and such here and there…Obama might attend a church and say he’s a Christian, for example. But the worldview and life commitment betrays something wholly different.
This is totally opposite the worldview of Christ…again, my point isn’t that Republicans are moral, that God is a Republican, that Republicans are always right, or any other strawman slogan. I’m focusing on bottom-line philosophical commitments here.
As far as specific issues are concerned, I know the stereotype is to view the left as more compassionate and caring for the poor and such, but this is inaccurate. People of both parties care about the poor and impoverished, and people of both parties don’t care as well…what separates the parties is the solution each gives to the problem. True to their philosophical roots, Democrats tend to tackle the issue of the poor with a government program, while conservatives can be open to that solution, but are generally leery of solutions involving more government intervention.
Rather than increasing dependence of the poor upon the government (nanny state politics), the best conservatives seek to empower everyday citizens and local non-government groups to tackle the issue, and seek to increase the strength of the family. It is a considerably less sexy and flashy solution–it doesn’t make a large immediate impact, for instance, whereas it might *appear* that a government intervention makes an impact quicker–but conservatives see things like poverty as irreducible moral issues rooted in family disfunction. As Charles Murray’s speech beautifully articulated, a government hand in the pot can actually further harm the institution of the family.
As a public high school teacher in an urban city, I’ve seen this reality first hand, so I need little convincing.
Come to think of it, I’m not convinced that the left is concerned with “the least of these.” How do I say that? Abortion. There are pro-life Democrats, but by and large, it is the party of choice for the abortion industry (pun intended). Time and time again, Democrats have failed to protect the unborn, choosing instead to align themselves with the likes of Planned Parenthood and other abortion industry pillars over against innocent unborn babies. Obama’s own record speaks volumes: for all his rhetoric about reducing abortions, his record clearly shows where he stands. I cannot vote for a man who refused to protect born babies who survived abortion.
Why all the fuss about abortion? Let me give you a brief primer: if you had a child, and he walked up behind you one day and asked, “dad, can I kill this?” you’d have to have one question answered before you said yes or no: “what is it you want to kill?” If it’s a slug–maybe. If it is his sister–hell no.
This focuses the abortion issue for us. Abortion kills something. What is it? If it is a human being, we should not be making laws allowing for that, anymore than we should be making laws allowing for the killing of newborns with Down’s Syndrome. Scientifically, religiously, philosophically–any which way you slice it, the unborn is a human being.
The unborn differs from the born only in size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency, and none of these distinctions make a difference in the unborn’s moral worth.
Bottom-line: saying it’s ok for a woman or man to dismember, burn, and crush her/his baby to death is not “protecting the least of these.” The Bible and common decency commands I staunchly stand against anyone who advocates for this, no matter how economically beneficial his or her other policies might be.
There are very few Republicans who stay true to the political vision I’ve laid out. My hope is that more and more of our representatives at every level identify with core conservative values. It’s not going to usher in utopia, but it will certainly make things better. Time will tell if that hope is realized or not.
To be continued….